leadership dot #3452: not now

In a simple yet clever way, the dressing room in Marshall’s sets the expectation that you are going to make a purchase. Instead of just plain hooks on the walls, they are labeled: Definitely, Possibly, and Tomorrow — inferring that if you don’t buy today you can always come back. There is no option for “no.”

What subtle change can you make to your forms or your signage to help nudge your customers toward the desired action? For example, our credit union runs ads that say “if you’re not yet a member…” and online games offer downloads that offer a choice of now or “maybe later.”

Plant the idea in your customer’s minds that their options remain open. Tomorrow will be here in a day and they may be ready to act then.

leadership dot #3433: short term

Short-term and temporary may both refer to brief or non-permanent situations but I think they each have a different impact on our mindset. If a situation is labeled as temporary, the focus becomes on the ending — “this is just for now and soon it will be over.” Contrast that with something that is short-term where there is more of an acceptance that “this is how it is for now.” It may end, but there is a focus on the present.

Clarifying the distinction can help with realistic planning and the setting of expectations. If we treat something as temporary that lingers into a short-term and even longer circumstance we incur mental fatigue as our goal post keeps moving into the future. If a situation has an unknown ending such as helping someone through recovery, facing budget restrictions, or an extensive road project, it may help to acknowledge that this current state is the reality and adjust your thinking accordingly as if it were a permanent condition.

Language shapes thinking and mindset shapes actions. Don’t make a difficult situation harder by how you frame it.

Lane closure on a busy road due to maintenante, signs detour traffic temporary street work orange lighted arrow, barrels and cones.

leadership dot #3378: minimize

I watched the movie Nomadland about a character that is “houseless, not homeless” and instead lives out of a van. It got me thinking about which of my possessions I would keep if I had to reduce them to the bare minimum. When you factor in the items necessary for maintenance, cooking, and hygiene, there is not much space left for sentimentality. (For example, Frances McDormand’s character keeps one picture (total), and one plate from the full collection her father left her, etc.)

The movie prompted me to pay attention to what I actually use in my home, and I have observed that a large portion of my things is only for occasional use. When I did the same exercise about what I pack into a suitcase for a weekend trip, I realized that there are many items I take “just in case” I need them (e.g. a Bandaid, swimsuit, or extra phone battery).

It occurred to me that there is a link between possessions and risk tolerance. If I’m willing to take the chance that I’ll need to improvise, run out, or substitute I can get by with a lot less. If I am afraid of going without or being unprepared, then I accumulate a bunch more. This is true whether I’m shopping, presenting, or going on vacation.

Become your own observer and see what your insights tell you. Can you expand your risk tolerance for the bigger issues by starting with some small risks around your possessions? How much of the “in case” preparations do you actually use? How have you responded when thrown a curve ball? The time and energy you devote to contingencies may be better spent pursuing opportunities.

leadership dot #3369: towels

When you think of partnerships, oftentimes elaborate collaborations come to mind involving sponsorships, letters of agreement, and many meetings. But it doesn’t always have to be that way.

An example of a low-key partnership involves our city pools and the local aquarium. The city donates all of the unclaimed beach towels that accumulate over the summer. The aquarium then uses them to transport ducks and turtles and they provide bedding for the popular otters. It’s great for the budget and the environment and both entities benefit from the arrangement.

Think about the small ways you can work with other organizations to benefit both parties. Collaborations don’t have to be lofty to be effective.

leadership dot #3360: responsibility

I was working with a client who lamented that her boss was all task-focused in their 1:1 meetings and he was not providing her with any professional development or coaching. I asked her what she was doing to bring growth topics into the meeting: putting specific questions on their agenda, asking to read an article or book together, requesting that occasional meetings be development-only focused, or explicitly sharing her concerns and asking for what she needed. While the supervisor usually takes the lead in this area, if they don’t there is a better course of action than just accepting the void.

We could all do more to take responsibility for ourselves.

If you want a new assignment, take the initiative to create one. Learn new software or skills via YouTube. Take advantage of the free professional development courses on the web. Seek out your own mentor.

The same principle holds true in your personal life. You don’t need a mask mandate to decide to wear one if you believe it will help keep you well. You can make decisions to eat in a healthy manner regardless of what is served. You shouldn’t rely on your partner for birth control.

Instead of expecting someone else to meet your needs, take ownership for meeting them yourself.

leadership dot #3353: afterglow

I worked at the Field of Dreams last week, and, as you can tell from this week’s dots, the event is still very top of mind. I have spent the week relaying stories, reading articles, looking at pictures, and generally remaining giddy about my participation in this little moment of history.

It has been easy to do so since the news and social media feed are full of game coverage and personal accounts. Talking about it with friends and people who learn that I was there has allowed me to relive the event and helped me feel that the game really was something special. It has created an afterglow that replicates the joy from the evening and magnifies its impact on me.

I don’t think organizations do enough to intentionally cultivate post-event buzz. While the use of a specific hashtag might be promoted, posting usually occurs during the event instead of after it. As part of your planning, consider what you can do to help those involved remember some of the emotions and key moments once they are back home or in their office. Wouldn’t it be nice on the day after (or ride home) to find a message thanking you for coming and sharing some exclusive content or pictures? Conferences could send emails with a special recording or an extra tip from the special guest. You could have participants write a reminder to themselves and mail it later, incentivize people to post their takeaways, or provide a framework to encourage sharing of key content with others. Many events have a professional photographer and you could make some of those pictures available to others.

It’s one thing to host a great event and have participants leave happy but the real magic occurs when they are still happy days or weeks after returning home. Consider the end of your event to be a period after it technically concludes and work as hard on promoting it afterward as you do on promoting it beforehand.

THIS is the ONLY entrance to the MLB field and the only entrance sign! Just like the ballplayers in the movie, everyone walked through the corn to get to the field!

leadership dot #3328: riding

While I was out shopping, a mom was pushing her cart with two children hanging on to the outside of the basket. The children decided that they would rather walk and asked permission to get off. “I’m not stopping until we get to the school supply aisle,” she said firmly. “You wanted to ride, now you have to live with your choice.”

Bravo! Her children’s future teachers and employers will thank her for teaching the lesson of consequences. Too often, people are allowed to change their decisions and behavior without rationale or regard to the implications. Stopping the cart is minor but these types of small, cumulative lessons may teach her kids to pause before committing to something if they know they are expected to actually fulfill their intentions.

Pay attention to your own behaviors and check yourself on how well you follow through on your declarations. Your word should be solid — both to others as well as to yourself.

leadership dot #3327: flavoring

The practice of self-serve fountain drinks has now expanded to encompass self-serve sno-cones. People are becoming more accustomed to having their orders customized to their exact preferences and one festival’s Sno-Cone truck made that possible. They provided you with a cup of plain shaved ice but allowed you to do the rest to turn it into a favorite summer treat.

The setup was a win-win for everyone: the truck operator could serve more people and customers were able to mix exotic combinations of flavoring to their liking. It also meant that there was ample syrup to soak through to the bottom of the cup!

When self-serve just is an excuse for customers to do the work of the retailer, there is natural resentment. But when self-serve provides a benefit to the customer as in this case, people are actually pleased to do things themselves. Ask yourself who your “self-serve” is serving: the organization or the customer. Only one causes delight.

leadership dot #3323: enforce

I just returned home from a trip to Chicago and my travels reminded me — once again — about the importance of setting clear expectations with consequences.

When I was in the city or any of the interstates around the airport, the posted speed limit was just a suggestion. People routinely drove 15 miles per hour above it, with a few outliers racing past even faster. Even though the limit was 70 mph, it did not deter people from ignoring the signs.

Later on my journey, I drove through a tiny town that is known for its notorious speed trap, and sure enough, everyone screeched to the requisite 25 mph and crawled through their city limits. The expectations were shared in the same way, but through consistent enforcement, people have come to know that this city means what the sign says.

Think about how your organization enforces its rules. Do you post the equivalent of highway speed limit signs, knowing that people will use them as suggestions rather than taking them literally, or do you administer consequences like in the small town where your people know that you mean what you say? It’s not what you say that matters, rather what you do after saying it that counts.

leadership dot #3317: bullseye

I have worked with people who are hard on themselves and feel let down if their project does not turn out perfectly. It makes it difficult for them to be satisfied or to take pride in their outcome when their focus is solely on what could have been better.

In these cases, I remind my clients that no one hits the bullseye every time. Nor should you expect to. Hitting the absolute center is a rare accomplishment and points are still scored by hitting the rings around the bullseye. We create the target not so much to establish a goal of hitting it dead on, but to provide expectations that frame the parameters of where we are aiming.

Yes, you should aim for the center. And you should also be content hitting any of the cascading rings. When you put the dartboard in perspective against the whole wall, you will realize that the entire target is within the range of acceptable behavior. Your expectations and ability to be satisfied should align with that.